March 2015 Round Up and Raven’s Book of The Month

_DSC0185 (Common Raven)As usual, a busy month of new releases- I love this time of year! In fact, so many new releases to read, that I have not kept up the pace with the reviews. However, this round-up gives me an opportunity to include a quick round-up on a theme. Inspired by the brilliant reports at Crime Fiction Lover from Marina Sofia at the Quais du Polar French crime fiction festival, I have also been reading a few French crime fiction novels this past month.

camilleHaving already waxed lyrical about Pierre Lemaitre in reviews for Alex and Irene, I can safely report that the third in the series, Camille, featuring diminutive detective Camille Verhoeven is a more than satisfying addition to the series. After the violent events of the previous two books, Camille is on more of an even keel with a new love interest, Anne, but following a brutal heist in which Anne is seriously injured, Camille’s world is rocked to its core. Is Anne all that she appears to be, and will Camille attain the happiness and satisfaction in his life and career he is seriously overdue? I found this a much more meditative read than the previous two books, and with the extreme focus on the emotional struggle Camille experiences, the book was packed with poignancy and uncertainty as to how his relationship with Anne and the implications for his long term career would play out. I felt this book did slightly lack the wow factor of the previous two, due to the change of tone, but even so Lemaitre still provides an emotionally rich and engaging crime thriller. Highly recommended.

bussiI suspect that I may be a lone voice in the wilderness but the hugely hyped After The Crash by Michel Bussi, left me distinctly non-plussed. I don’t know if this was due to my lack of emotional engagement with what I perceived as a cast of distinctly disagreeable characters, or my innate irritation at the composition of the book, using the trope of a diary as the central narrative strand. I felt unfulfilled by the plot generally, and to be honest it was a real struggle to finish this one.

I also re-read The Prone Gunman by Jean- Patrick Manchette, and discovered the delights of a previously unknown to me novella by him, Fatale. Outside of my crime reading, I am a huge fan of foreign fiction in translation, particularly  those little jewels of novellas running at less than 200 pages, so Manchette is a delight. Taut, concise, and bluntly observed, his writing is so precise and powerful that it never fails to amaze me how he so easily runs through a gamut of emotions in such a condensed form. Both books are violent, and tinged with a bleakness that is sometimes hard to stomach, but I think his writing provides a hell of a punch. Buy these and read them. You won’t regret it.

And so forwards to April, where there are a couple of blog tours coming up, and a whole host of great new releases. It’s going to be a good month! And I will be posting a review for a possible contender for my book of the year…you’re intrigued now…

Books read in March:

Mari Jungstedt- A Dangerous Game

Steve Cavanagh- The Defence

Glen Erik Hamilton- Past Crimes

SJI Holliday- Black Wood

Ben McPherson- A Line of Blood (www.crimefictionlover.com)

Raven’s Book of the Month:

glenIt’s got to be Glen Erik Hamilton’s debut Past Crimes. As I said in my review, the split timeline, the pared down style, and the assured plot structure, was an absolute delight throughout. It’s also great to encounter a debut author, that so compliments your existing favourite authors. With shades of Lehane and Pelecanos, I think there will be more to come from Hamilton… and I can’t wait. Excellent.

The 2015 Petrona Award shortlist is revealed!

ravencrimereads:

A terrific list for this year’s Petrona Award and something for everyone if Scandinavian Crime is your passion. Thanks to Karen, Kat, Sarah, and Barry for your dedicated reading and careful deliberating!

Originally posted on Mrs. Peabody Investigates:

Six high-quality crime novels from Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden have made the shortlist of the 2015 Petrona Award for the Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year, which is announced today.

  • THE HUMMINGBIRD by Kati Hiekkapelto tr. David Hackston                         (Arcadia Books; Finland)
  • THE HUNTING DOGS by Jørn Lier Horst tr. Anne Bruce                              (Sandstone Press; Norway)
  • REYKJAVIK NIGHTS by Arnaldur Indriðason tr. Victoria Cribb                        (Harvill Secker; Iceland)
  • THE HUMAN FLIES by Hans Olav Lahlum tr. Kari Dickson                               (Mantle; Norway)
  • FALLING FREELY, AS IF IN A DREAM by Leif G W Persson tr. Paul Norlen (Doubleday; Sweden)
  • THE SILENCE…

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BLOG TOUR- Luca Di Fulvio- The Boy Who Granted Dreams- Extract

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Welcome to the second stop on this week’s blog tour coinciding with the release of Luca Di Fulvio’s UK debut, The Boy Who Granted Dreams. If, like me, you have a fondness for films such as The Godfather, Once Upon A Time In America or Gangs of New York, I can pretty much guarantee that you will enjoy this novel greatly. Tracking the immigration of fifteen year old Cetta, and her young son, Natale from rural Italy to New York in search of a better life, Di Fulvio has constructed a vivid and powerful portrait of life in America at the turn of the twentieth century. In their new home, they find the merciless laws of gangs rule the miserable, poverty-stricken, and crime-filled Lower East Side. Only those with enough strength and conviction survive. As young Natale grows up in the Roaring Twenties, he takes a page from his crippled mother’s book and finds he possesses a certain charisma that enables him to charm the dangerous people around him. Weaving Natale’s unusual life and quest for his one true love against the gritty backdrop of New York’s underbelly, Di Fulvio proves himself a master storyteller, as he constructs enticing characters ravaged by circumstance, driven by dreams, and awakened by destiny. Although I confess to only being some way into the book at the time of writing this, I am already hypnotised by the journey to adulthood Natale is experiencing, and intrigued by his incredibly natural feel for manipulation and charm to protect himself, and yet stealthily achieve his long term ambitions. I love the real sense of time and place that Di Fulvio is weaving as a backdrop to the story, and the colourful and vital characterisation that leaps from the pages. But don’t just take my word for it, and feast your eyes on the first part of an extract (to be continued on Friday by Cara at The Tattooed Book ) to enter the world of The Boy Who Granted Dreams…

At first there were two of them watching her grow up — the mother and the padrone. One of them watched with dread, the other with a lazy lustfulness. But before she could become a woman, the mother made sure that the padrone wouldn’t look at her any more.

When the child was twelve years old, her mother mashed a thick juice out of poppy seeds, as the oldest women had taught her. She made the girl drink it, and, when she saw her start to stagger and grow drowsy, she picked her up and carried her on her back across the dusty path in front of their hut — on the padrone’s land — down to the dry stream bed and the dead oak tree. She broke a big branch off the old tree, then ripped the little girl’s dress and struck her forehead with a sharp stone, there where she knew much blood would flow. She pulled her daughter into an awkward pose on the stony riverbed — as if she’d rolled down the bank, falling from the dead tree — and left her there, with the broken branch on top of her. Then she came back to the hut and waited for the men to return from the fields, while she kept on stirring a pot of soup with onions, and lard. Only then did she tell one of her sons to go and look for Concetta, the little girl.

She went on grumbling, saying that girl was always running off to play, maybe down by the old oak. She complained to her husband that that child was a curse, moving like quicksilver but with her head always someplace else; she couldn’t give her a task because she’d start out and then forget it halfway through, and she was no help in the house, either. Her husband called her names and told her to shut up, and then he went outside to smoke. She — while her son went across the path that led down to the riverbed and the dead oak — went back to stirring the pot of soup with its lard, and onions; her heart hammering in her breast.

While she was waiting she heard, as she did every evening, the padrone’s automobile pass in front of their house. He always sounded his horn twice, because, he said, the little girls liked it so much. It was true that Concetta was drawn by that sound every evening, even though for the last year her mother had forbidden her to run out of the house to greet the padrone. She would go to the window and peep out. And the mother would hear the padrone laughing from inside the cloud of dust raised by his automobile.

Because Concetta — everyone said this, but the padrone said it too often — was a really beautiful child and was going to be a beautiful big girl….”

to be continued….

LUCA_D~1Luca Di Fulvio was born in 1957 in Rome where he now works as an independent author. His versatile talent allows him to write riveting adult thrillers and cheerful children’s stories (published under a pseudonym) with equal ease. One of his previous thrillers, “L’Impagliatore,” was filmed in Italian under the title “Occhi di cristallo.” Di Fulvio studied dramaturgy in Rome where he was mentored by Andrea Camilleri. The Boy Who Granted Dreams is published 23rd March by Bastei Entertainment and is available as an e-book from online retailers.

The blog tour for The Boy Who Granted Dreams continues tomorrow at Liz Loves Books

BLOG TOUR: SJI Holliday- Black Wood Review and Extract

Blog-Tour-URLs[3]Raven Crime Reads is delighted to be the first stop on the SJI Holliday Black Wood blog tour- a debut crime novel that more than lives up to the promise of being a dark and extremely compelling psychological thriller. Inspired by a disturbing incident in the author’s own childhood, Black Wood explores the lives of two young women, Jo and Claire, deeply affected by an event that happened to them in their younger years in the local woods. This distressing incident left Claire paralysed and Jo with deep mental scars, but due to Claire’s memory loss, how much is Jo’s version of what happened to be trusted? Twenty-three years later, a familiar face walks into the local bookshop where Jo works, dredging up painful memories and rekindling her desire for revenge. At the same time, popular local police officer, Sergeant Davie Gray is investigating a man who is attacking women near the disused railway, shocking the sleepy village of Banktoun. But how is this man connected to Jo’s unwelcome visitor, and will the dependable Gray unravel the tangled web of secrets and lies to keep Jo safe and give her justice? And just who will survive the violence that must surely follow?

blI should really start by saying how much I applaud Holliday in taking the decision to present us with a cast of characters who are all so singularly dislikeable. They range in character from self-absorbed, to screwed-up, from emotionally crippled to inherently evil, and all the worst points in-between. If I were to encounter any of them in real life, I would not seek their company again, but within the confines of this book, I liked them all immensely. I loved the premise of having this collection of oddball personalities, whether shaped by unfortunate experience or just as a result of their natural weirdness, in this claustrophobic community, and the fact that as a reader you could remain largely unaffected by their trials and tribulations. I was very much put in mind of a brilliant drama series from years ago, Cape Wrath, which instilled a similar feeling as to the largely nasty characters within it, but remained compulsive viewing. I liked the feeling of being unencumbered by empathy with Jo, in particular, and rather enjoyed the fact that she inhabited the role of victim, but had a rather unpleasant and manipulative streak to her. She seemed to wield some strange hypnotic effect over most of the male characters, including the dogged Sergeant Gray who was probably the only character registering at all on the niceness scale. The assured characterisation of such a cast of dark and twisted people was a real strength of the book overall, and as much as I disliked them, I derived great satisfaction from seeing into their lives- the good and the bad.

I liked the unfolding complexity of the characters connections to one another within the central plot. I did read quite a way into the book with not the faintest clue as to how it would pan out, and I thought Holliday’s control of reveals was incredibly well-handled, keeping my interest throughout, as we became further embroiled in the nasty dark secrets and lies at the heart of this community. I wasn’t entirely convinced by the explosion of violence towards the end of the book, but no matter, as what proceeded it was more than satisfying. Oh- and there is a good twist right at the end of the book. I love it when that works, and this one did. All in all, a good debut, that contains all the necessary tension, and unwelcome surprises of a thoroughly enjoyable psychological thriller. Seek this one out and you won’t be disappointed I’m sure. Here’s an extract to tempt you further…

THE WOODS

He spots the two girls through the cracked screen of beech, sycamore and leg-scratching gorse: a flash of red skirt and a unison of giggles.

He waves a hand behind him, silently gesturing for the other boy to stop walking.

They hunker down behind a giant felled oak, and watch. The one with the red skirt sits astride a rusty water pipe that juts out through the hard-packed mud on either side of the burn. Her long, skinny legs dangle like the branches of a weeping willow, her sandalled feet almost skimming the water that bubbles beneath.

‘Come on, scaredy-cat!’

Her face is turned in the direction of the far bank, watching the path that runs down the side of the neat little row of square seventies housing where all the nice families live with their panel-fenced back gardens and their rabbit hutches and their Swingball sets. Where the other girl stands: shorter, plumper and dressed in denim dungarees and a pair of blue wellingtons.

‘I can’t. It’s too fast.’

The water is high from the rain that has barely stopped for weeks. The ground is soggy, and the boys’ footsteps have disturbed the mulch on the floor of the wood, releasing a stink that reminds him of clothes that’ve been left too long in the washing machine mixed with the tang of fresh grass from the bucket on his dad’s lawnmower.

He hears the snap of a twig close behind him and whirls round.

‘Ssssh, you idiot. Don’t let them hear us.’

The other boy mumbles a sorry.

The girl with the red skirt turns back to face the wood and he holds his breath, desperate not to make a sound. She frowns and shakes her head and dark little curls bob around her face. She is younger than he is. A couple of years. Maybe the same age as the pudgy-faced one in the dungarees, but even from this distance he can tell she’s going to be a heartbreaker before long. He stares at the long bare legs straddling the pipe and feels the stirring in his trousers that’s becoming increasingly familiar.

The other girl takes a tentative step towards the pipe.

‘I’m not going over it like you,’ she says haughtily. ‘I’ll get my dungarees dirty.’

The other girl lets out a dirty little laugh and shuffles over to the end of the pipe, then leans forward and grabs the protruding roots of the ancient oak that overhangs the waterway. As she pulls herself up, the front of her baggy T-shirt gapes open and he strains his eyes to see what’s concealed beneath. The other one steps onto the pipe and, with arms outstretched like a tightrope walker, slowly makes her way across, until she is close enough to grab onto her friend’s outstretched hand.

He waits until they are both safely away from the bank before he grabs the sleeve of the other boy and they both stand up. The smaller girl sees them first and she lets out a strange little squeak and jumps back, grabbing onto the other girl’s T-shirt, revealing a flash of milky-white shoulder.

He grins.

Find out more about the author here

Don’t forget to visit The Welsh Librarian BlogSpot tomorrow for the next stop on the tour…

(With thanks to Black & White Publishing for the ARC)

BLOG TOUR- Glen Erik Hamilton- Past Crimes- Guest Post: Why I Write About Crime + Review

PASTCRIMES3 (1)It’s the last stop on the Glen Erik Hamilton blog tour to promote his debut thriller Past Crimes. I’m delighted to be hosting a special post by Glen on why crime is his chosen genre and my review of the book follows. It’s no exaggeration to say that you’re going to love this debut… 

Glen2961 v2 (1)Why I Write About Crime

“About as early as I can remember, I would look for the cameras. The bank cameras, that is, which used to be tucked away discreetly in the corners, watching and recording in case anyone decided to make an unauthorized withdrawal. As a boy, I found the whole concept of security from castle moats to bank vaults – fascinating. How do they prevent crime? Or, maybe more intriguingly, what are their limits?

Nowadays that spot-the-camera game isn’t much fun. The cameras are very obvious, even showing their feeds on monitors to the customers, to further discourage crime and promote paranoia. And the little black ceiling bubbles with eyes within are so ubiquitous that it’s a lot harder to count them than find them.

Still, the question lingers: How exactly could one solve that particular puzzle? Disguises? Smoke screen? Hoodies with stealth technology woven right in?

That example obviously had nefarious ends in mind. But not all flouting of the law is so nefarious. On my first trip to Ireland, I made some new friends (easy enough in that land famed for good conversation) and we went out after their workday for dinner and a pint. The pint turned into a few litres as the night went on, and I became acquainted with the brilliant custom of the lock-in.

I’m aware that I’m writing this for a readership largely in the UK, who may have understood lock-ins long before reaching their own drinking age. I hope those crafty veterans will bear with my naïve enthusiasm.

But for those readers who are unfamiliar: UK law states that pubs and other venues offering alcohol must stop serving at 11:00 at night, and of course, that’s the natural closing time for most. However, there’s nothing that says a pub owner can’t give drinks to a few friends after he or she closes up shop for the night. And if the friends happen to leave a few bills on the bar in appreciation, before the official closing time, that’s entirely up to them. The locked door simply makes sure that the private party isn’t interrupted by customers. Because that would be illegal. Occasionally a member of the Garda (the police) might pop by to share a drink, while off-duty of course, and make sure that the deadbolt on the door is working properly.

Illegal? Arguably, as it’s skirting the rules. Malevolent? Hardly. If anything, the shared wink at the formal law seems to bring small communities and neighborhoods together. In any event, I love the whole idea, and not just because it ends with me having another Guinness. It’s fun to break the rules, so long as no one suffers. Or goes thirsty.

I wouldn’t really want to hijack an armored car, or steal an entire warehouse, or melt the gilt off of cathedral spires. But it is hugely fun to think of solutions to puzzles like these, and then write about them. Breaking the rules, without anyone the worse off for it. And all my crimes confined to the page. Honest, Officer.

Now about that pint…”

A native of Seattle, Glen Erik Hamilton grew up aboard a sailboat, and spent his youth finding trouble around the marinas and commercial docks and islands of the Pacific Northwest. He now lives in California with his family, punctuated by frequent visits to his hometown to soak up the rain. He is currently working on his second novel featuring Van Shaw and Seattle’s criminal underworld. Follow the author on Twitter @GlenErikH and visit his website here

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Van Shaw was raised to be a thief, but at eighteen he suddenly broke all ties to that life and joined the military—abandoning his illicit past and the career-criminal grandfather who taught him the trade. Now, after ten years of silence, his grandfather has asked him to come home to Seattle. But when Van arrives, he discovers his grandfather bleeding out on the floor from a gunshot to the head. With a lifetime of tough history between him and the old man, Van knows he’s the main suspect. The only way he can clear his name is to go back to the world he’d sworn to leave behind. Tapping into his criminal skills, he begins to hunt the shooter and uncover what drove his grandfather to reach out after so long. But in a violent, high-stakes world where right and wrong aren’t defined by the law, Van finds that the past is all too present . . . and that the secrets held by those closest to him are the deadliest of all.

I was really quite taken with this debut from Hamilton, I must confess. As regular readers of my reviews know, I am always keen to discover new American writers and what appealed to me about Hamilton was the way that his book neatly bypassed the more simple label of ‘thriller’ and instead, through the strength of his characterisation and observation, was on a par with the very best of American contemporary fiction.

With his main character returning from military service to his old stomping ground and Hamilton’s solid depiction of Shaw’s Seattle neighbourhood, I would have no hesitation in putting this in the same league as Dennis Lehane or George Pelecanos, whose assured grip of the socio-economic representations of the neighbourhoods they depict, add another level to the reader’s experience. Supported by the extremely well-worked double timeline, I was utterly engaged throughout the whole book. The use of the contrasting timelines subtly speeded up or slowed down the reading experience, giving an undulating sense of pace to the book overall to great effect. Sometimes it is easy to be engaged more with one timeline than another, but I found that each enriched the enjoyment of the other, as truths were revealed and we got drawn deeper into the trials and tribulations of Shaw’s world…

I thoroughly enjoyed the way that Hamilton slowly built up a complete picture of Shaw from his troubled childhood, to his teenage years kicking around with best friend Davey, and the ‘criminal’ schooling by his gruff grandfather Dono. Shaw’s formative years are a turbulent affair, interspersed by his grandfather’s criminal activities and incarceration, but we as readers, embark on a journey with Shaw as the light and shade of his character come into sharp focus. The oscillating moral compass of Shaw that we see formed from his youth to his army service adds a real depth to his character, and by extension makes him an incredibly empathetic protagonist. As he seeks to uncover the reasons for the vicious attack on his grandfather that greets his arrival home, Shaw uncovers the nefarious dealings of the old man, calling on some of his grandfather’s less than honest pals for assistance (who are another highlight of the book), and Shaw has to face up to the sins of his own past along the way, leading the book to an emotional and heartfelt conclusion. A highly recommended debut novel, and another name to keep a close eye on…

(With thanks to Faber for the ARC)

Killer Crime Festival- HarperCollins and Waterstones 13th/14th March 2015 #KillerFest15

image006HarperCollins Publishers and Waterstones launch the Killer Crime Festival 2015; the only combined virtual and traditional literary festival in the UK.

This innovative new festival will take place on the 13th and 14th of March incorporating live events in Waterstones around the country and an online festival programme. The festival will reach an estimated 26 million crime fans across the globe.

Waterstones shops will host live events focussed on crime fiction with authors including Simon Toyne in Brighton, Lin Anderson in Inverness, Ian Sansom in Exeter and a flagship event in the Piccadilly shop, details of which are yet to be announced.

Killer Reads, HarperCollins’ digital-first crime list will run virtual events across various social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook and Google Hangouts.

Following the incredible success of HarperCollins’ ground-breaking Virtual Romance Festival and BFIVoyager Sci-Fi Festival, the Killer Crime Festival 2015 looks set to deliver a brilliant crime fiction festival with one overarching aim in mind: to connect the best crime authors to readers and fans. Inclusivity is at the heart of the festival; with all events open to the public and to all UK publishers.

Charlie Redmayne, CEO of HarperCollins UK, said ‘Crime and thriller aficionados are the most impassioned readers of any fiction genre and the Killer Crime Festival is an inspired way to bring together readers and authorial talent. I am absolutely delighted that HarperCollins and Waterstones are working together on this pioneering project – a project that fuses audience engagement in the traditional bookshop environment with engagement in the digital space.’

Waterstones Managing Director, James Daunt praised the project stating ‘With so many brilliant authors in our shops over the Festival, it is fantastic that a wider digital audience can contribute to and enjoy the excitement.’

Waterstones Crime Buyer Joseph Knobbs said ‘We’re excited to be offering our customers the opportunity to join us in this celebration of crime writing.  With passionate booksellers, an exciting events programme and innovative use of social media, we want to put a magnifying glass over some of the best crime writing out there.’

The virtual elements of festival will be free to attend – simply register here to be sent more details of the programme: http://killerfest15.eventbrite.co.uk

Twitter hashtag for the event is #KillerFest15

Steve Cavanagh- The Defence

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Eddie Flynn used to be a con artist. Then he became a lawyer. Turned out the two weren’t that different.It’s been over a year since Eddie vowed never to set foot in a courtroom again. But now he doesn’t have a choice. Olek Volchek, the infamous head of the Russian mafia in New York, has strapped a bomb to Eddie’s back and kidnapped his ten-year-old daughter, Amy. Eddie only has forty-eight hours to defend Volchek in an impossible murder trial – and win – if he wants to save his daughter. Under the scrutiny of the media and the FBI, Eddie must use his razor-sharp wit and every con-artist trick in the book to defend his ‘client’ and ensure Amy’s safety. With the timer on his back ticking away, can Eddie convince the jury of the impossible? Lose this case and he loses everything.

Okay, as they say over the water, here’s the thing. I don’t do legal thrillers. As a rule they bore me intensely, and I’ve dabbled in the genre with little success. I’m the type of gal who only watches half of Law and Order. The first half, thus for me, the interesting half, where crimes are perpetrated and people get attacked or murdered. I have little patience for posturing people in judicial wigs or designer suits, impressing no-one but themselves within the confines of the courtroom. BUT a strange thing has happened, nay a miracle, and Mr Cavanagh must be fully congratulated for this. He has written a legal thriller- yes, the alarm bells were ringing- but what’s more, a legal thriller that I read in practically one sitting. And loved. Yes, loved. Here’s why..

The absolute stand-out feature of this book is Cavanagh’s characterisation of sharp-talking but reluctant lawyer Eddie Flynn. Flynn is a wonderfully flawed man with a chequered past, Mafia connections and fundamental human weaknesses, but equally a man of great integrity who has a strong moral core, anxious to avenge the sins of his own former professional career as a lawyer, and to fairly extricate himself and others from the predicament he finds himself in. I thoroughly enjoyed how Cavanagh interweaved the less than honourable aspects of Flynn’s past life as a grifter, albeit to seek revenge on those that had wronged himself and his family, with the great personal cost to himself when he also manages to get a clearly guilty man exonerated from a heinous attack on a young woman (the upshot of this case being his withdrawal from his legal career). Finding himself in the clutches of a dangerous conspiracy to dispose of a witness, we are held on the edge of our seats as to how Flynn will thwart the baddies, and ensure the release of his daughter, whilst manipulating the due process of law, and calling in some favours from some less than savoury cohorts. Flynn completely carries the weight of the plot, with the reader believing in him consistently throughout, and with his humour, integrity and quick thinking, there was little to disabuse me of my feeling towards him as a thoroughly believable and likeable character. Equally, Cavanagh’s characterisation of the Russian crew was spot-on, presenting us with a host of great baddies for us to despise, but also within the Italian Mafia offshoot, giving us another set of notably bad but affectionately flawed men who Flynn calls upon to help in his hour of need.

The plot moved at breakneck speed with a breathless quality to the whole affair. As Flynn gets even further mired in the Russian conspiracy, there are real hold-your-breath moments, as the clock ticks down to exonerating Volchek without the potentially explosive events that Flynn’s failure could cause in the courtroom, and which could compromise the safety of his daughter. The book is well balanced between the unfurling court case, and the cat and mouse defence and prosecution of Volchek, and the events outside as we begin to see the depth of the plot against Flynn, and even Volchek himself, in a series of well-timed reveals that consistently wrong-foot the reader. It’s sharp, clever and a brilliantly executed thriller. And it’s not often I write those words. The Defence is a great debut, and here’s hoping there’s more of Eddie Flynn to come.

(With thanks to Orion for the ARC)

Mari Jungstedt- The Dangerous Game

aaaFor one reason or another Mari Jungstedt had slipped off my reading list, so after a slight hiatus for me in the series it was good to embark on her writing again. This is the eighth of the series to feature detectives Anders Knutas and Karin Jacobsson, and is set against the backdrop of the Swedish fashion world, and all the petty rivalries and skulduggery within it.

The book opens with a vicious attack on fashion photographer, Markus Sanberg, a dislikeable lothario who seems to spend most of his time seducing the young models he photographs. His latest conquest is Jenny Levin, a fresh-faced and naïve girl from the rural backwoods, and the greatest focus throughout the book is her connection to Markus, and the murders that follow this initial attack. We also meet Agnes, a former model, now incarcerated in a clinic, suffering from acute anorexia, and for me, her narrative was probably the most engaging part of the book. We see through her eyes the inordinate amount of pressure put on young girls in the fashion business, and the traumatic aftermath she has experienced in not only her damaging relationship with food, but how her life has been ruined. Slowly, Jungstedt interlinks the experiences of both Jenny and Agnes as the murderer has connections to both, and how Knutas and Jacobsson enter a world largely unknown to them in pursuit of a murderer…

To be honest, I wasn’t completely enamoured with this book, and was thrown initially by the relating of two events that even at the close of reading, I could find no connection to what had happened in the main body of the story. Indeed, I was a little underwhelmed with the plot generally, so other aspects of the book became more important. The story largely consisted of a group of fairly dislikeable characters, arrogant Markus, limpid Jenny and so on, that I found increasingly difficult to care about. As I said previously, Agnes was the shining light amongst a fairly mediocre cast of characters, but probably more so in the fact that she revealed to us the dark side of the fashion world, and the daily difficulties she experiences in trying to overcome her eating disorder. I think most readers could not fail to be moved by her travails, and there is a huge amount of poignancy in Jungstedt’s portrayal of her, particularly in relation to the events near the close of the book. Detectives Knutas and Jacobsson do not seem to have moved on an incredible amount from the last time I read this series. There is still the air of unrequited love bubbling below the surface, but I did enjoy the sharper focus placed on Jacobsson’s reunion with the now adult daughter she gave up for adoption. Their handling of the investigation was fairly straightforward, unveiling few surprises along the way, and the murderer was not exceptionally well-disguised.

In fairness to Jungstedt, whose previous books I have largely enjoyed, I will file this one away as a ‘bridging’ book in the series, with the hope that the next outing for the likeable Knutas and Jacobsson is a good deal more fulfilling. A normally pleasing detective duo, but not given room to shine in this one.

(With thanks to Doubleday for the ARC)

London Book and Screen Week 13th-19th April 2015

image00 THE FIRST LONDON BOOK & SCREEN WEEK TO HOST EVENTS FEATURING DEBORAH MOGGACH, LOUISA YOUNG, JOE ABERCROMBIE, JOHN BANVILLE, SARAH HALL, PATRICIA DUNCKER AND MORE AT ICONIC LONDON VENUES INCLUDING FOYLES, SOHO HOUSE & PICTUREHOUSE CINEMAS.

 London Book & Screen Week – the capital’s biggest ever celebration of books, and the films, TV programmes and virtual worlds they’ve inspired – has unveiled its inaugural programme of events with London & Partners as a strategic partner.

Running from 13-19th April 2015, this new seven day, citywide, landmark event brings storytelling and the written word to life, uniting the capital’s avid readers, writers, game, film and TV fans with a whole host of events taking place right across literary London.

There’s something for everyone with author Q&As, writing master classes, film screenings, cook book demonstrations, bookshop crawls, literary debates, live readings, poetry parties, fiction prizes, book launches and self-publishing workshops – there are even Mad Hatter tea parties and Harry Potter fan expos!

London Book & Screen Week coincides with The London Book Fair, one of the most important events in the publishing calendar, which is attended by 25,000 book industry professionals from around the world.  The books they are publishing today will be the box office hits and the TV ratings grabbers of the future. This is London’s first chance to join them in a citywide celebration of imagination, creativity and culture, all inspired by books.

Authors taking part include David Nicholls (One Day), Deborah Moggach (Best Exotic Marigold Hotel), John Banville (The Sea), former Children’s Laureate Anthony Browne (Gorilla), Patricia Duncker (Sophie and the Sibyl) and Sarah Hall (The Wolf Border).

Jacks Thomas, Director The London Book Fair and LBSW, says: “We are delighted to announce such an exciting and varied line-up for our first ever London Book & Screen Week. This special programme of events celebrates the written word in all its glory.  There really is something for everyone.”

Kate Mosse, international bestselling author of Labyrinth, says:  “London Book & Screen Week is a wonderful, inspired idea – it’s the perfect opportunity to galvanise the global creative community and bring all kinds of storytelling together.”

Luigi Bonomi, Managing Director of top literary agency LBA, says: “The creation of London Book & Screen Week is genius.  Building on the fabulous position that London has as a global leader in culture, creativity and knowledge, The London Book Fair is leveraging its market-leading position in books and creativity to reach out beyond the publishing industry to consumers and creators.  The cross-media zeitgeist is being captured in this one, great celebration of literary forms, across all media.”

London Book & Screen Week has teamed up with some of the capital’s highest-profile brands, including London & Partners, the Mayor’s official promotional company for London, which attracts businesses and visitors to the capital and operates VisitLondon.com, the official city guide for London. London & Partners works to attract leisure and business visitors to London, as well as new businesses and major events.

Zanine Adams, Head of Events and Business Development UK at London & Partners, said: “We are delighted to add London Book & Screen Week to our calendar of superb offerings. This great initiative will attract people from London, the UK and beyond to our city to experience wonderful moments of creative inspiration, further enhancing London’s reputation as the leading city in the world for culture.”

Highlights of the London Book & Screen Week programme include:-

Monday 13th April

New Writers Evening, Monday 13th April @ 7pm, Foyles Charing Cross London Book & Screen Week kicks off at Foyles Charing Cross with a special event focusing on future stars of the literary firmament.

Tuesday 14th April

Guardian Masterclass – How to Write Fantasy and Dystopian Fiction, 6.30pm

A two-hour course in how to master the genres, with Joe Abercrombie, Peter V Brett, and Francesca Haig – chaired by Harper Voyager Publisher Jane Johnson. Each author will discuss their path to publication, followed by a discussion about the genre more generally, covering writing a pitch, finding an agent, and getting the concept right.

Good Housekeeping presents Deborah Moggach and Louisa Young in Conversation, October Gallery, 7pm

Best-selling author of Tulip Fever and Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Author of the Day for The London Book Fair, Deborah Moggach, will appear in conversation with author of My Dear, I Wanted To Tell You Louisa Young. This event is presented by Good Housekeeping in association with London Book & Screen Week.

Sarah Hall: The Wolf Border, Foyles Charing Cross, 6-7pm In her only London event, one of Granta magazine’s Best of Young British Novelists, Sarah Hall, talks about her award-winning work including her outstanding new book The Wolf Border.

Pin Drop, sponsored by Audible.co.uk @ Soho House, 7pm

Pin Drop, the spoken word salon that presents world-leading authors and actors reading short stories live, will present a special event for London Book & Screen Week sponsored by Audible.co.uk. Join Pin Drop in the exclusive environment of Soho House to celebrate the joy of hearing a short story well told.

Wednesday 15th April

Patricia Duncker: Sophie and The Sibyl, Bloomsbury Institute, on Wednesday 15th April @ 6pm

A chance to hear award-winning novelist Patricia Duncker talk about her compelling new Victorian novel, which is published in April.  Sophie and the Sibyl balances a tale of courtship and seduction with a fascinating, lively imagining of the writer George Eliot at the end of her boldly unconventional life, and the height of her fame.

 

Literary Death Match London, Ep.47 – MOVIE SPECIAL, Foyles Charing Cross @ 7pm

Four writers read their own work for seven minutes or less, and are then judged by three all-star judges. Two finalists are chosen to compete in the Literary Death Match finale, a vaguely-literary game to decide the ultimate winner.

 

Pablo, The Graphic Novel, Institut Francais, Queensberry Place @ 7pm

Writer Julie Birmant and artist Clément Oubrerie visit The Institut Français to discuss their award-winning graphic novel biography of Picasso with journalist, historian and curator of the British Library Comics Unmasked exhibition ,Paul Gravett. Together they will explore the themes and obsessions – among them, sex, death and his great nemesis, Henri Matisse – that drove Picasso to express himself.

 

Thursday 16th April

Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2015 @ Foyles, Charing Cross, 6pm-7pm The shortlist of six titles will be announced for this prestigious prize, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, and honours the best work of fiction by a living author that has been translated into English from any other language and published in the UK in 2014.

 

Friday 17th April

Indie Author Fringe Fest @ Foyles, Charing Cross, @ 12-7pm

The Fringe Fest offers exciting ways for readers to meet indie authors and discover great reads. It will also be live streamed, so authors and readers who can’t be in London can still take part online.

 

Saturday 18th April

Mad Hatter’s Tea Party on Saturday 18th April @12pm A delightful children’s party to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Lewis Caroll’s Alice in Wonderland, attended by the former Children’s Laureate Anthony Browne.

 

How to write and illustrate children’s story books with Rebecca Elliott

This one-day course, picture book author and illustrator Rebecca Elliott (Just Because, The Last Tiger, Naked Trevor) will help aspiring illustrators make the most of your ideas, understand exactly what commissioning editors are looking for, and how to achieve it in their work.

 

How to be a ghostwriter with Andrew Crofts

This course taught by one of the UK’s leading ghostwriters introduces all the skills writers need to get started in this potentially lucrative field. Learn how to find and recognise great stories, and how to build a relationship with a subject that helps get straight to the heart of their life story.

 

Sunday 19th April

The Sea at Hackney Picturehouse with John Banville @ 1pm Join author John Banville and director Stephen Brown in conversation, followed by a screening of the highly-acclaimed adaption of Banville’s book The Sea, which tells the story of a man who returns to the sea where he spent his childhood summers, in search of peace following the death of his wife.

For the full details on these and a list of all other events taking place, please visit the website: http://www.londonbookandscreenweek.co.uk or follow London Book & Screen Week on Twitter at @LBandSW Please note that extra events are being added all the time.